The coastal state of Nueva Esparta in Venezuela is celebrating the fact that one of its own residents, José Angel Salazar, age 14, has just become the world’s youngest orchestra conductor. Salazar is a graduate of Venezuela’s famous national system of symphony orchestras, a program known as “El Sistema.”
Last Saturday, at a ceremony in Caracas, Salazar was appointed conductor of the Regional Youth Orchestra of Nueva Esparta, a state located northeastern Venezuela that is comprised largely of Margarita Island. The decision was made by El Sistema’s founder, José Antonio Abreu, and the news spurred celebrations when it reached Salazar’s home state yesterday.
“Maestro Abreu was impressed by Salazar’s talent and indicated that he should receive individual instruction and practice alongside Gustavo Dudamel. This achievement demonstrates that the symphony orchestra program is one more attractive alternative for Venezuelan youth,” said Marisela Usuriaga, the regional manager of the Symphony Orchestra of Nueva Esparta.
Salazar was born in Porlamar, Margarita Island, on September 16, 1997, and began studying music at age eight. He then joined the Youth Orchestra of Nueva Esparta, where he continued to study violin and music theory under maestro Luis Villarroel, quickly earning the post of concertino.
In 2011, after an audition, he joined the Symphony Orchestra of Nueva Esparta as first violin. He then became part of the chamber music quartet Allegretto and the Venezuelan Musical Duo D2, with whom he has performed many times.
Venezuela’s El Sistema currently includes 285 local “nucleos” which are attended by a total of 350,000 children and adolescents to form the national network of youth orchestras and choirs.
El Sistema, founded in 1975, has received special support from the government of President Hugo Chávez. In November of 2011, the Venezuelan government announced a grant of $38 million to finance the program, which primarily benefits young people from low-income families.
AVN / Press – Venezuelan Embassy to the U.S. / May 15, 2012